A cultural exchange hosted by the Yothu Yindi Foundation, and celebrating the cultural inheritance of the Yolngu people in North East Arnhem Land, the Garma Festival is undoubtedly a leading cultural and intellectual event in Australia, if not internationally. A superb blend of culture, ideas, economics, politics, it provides the opportunity to re-orient our thinking with a focus on Yolngu experiences and priorities. This offers the chance to put into context so many issues presently on the political and policy agenda.
The Last Word
Lawyers always want to have the last word. Whether it's argumentative, controversial, eccentric or personal, this column allows one author to open a can of worms and see what wriggles out!
As we approach the 30th anniversary of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) (‘SDA’) it is timely to reflect on the status of women’s equality in Australia. Could it be true to say, as some have suggested, that we inhabit a post-feminist era.
The foundation of feminism — in all its guises — rests upon the establishment and defence of women’s enjoyment of equal political, economic and social rights. While legislation such as the SDA enshrines gender equality into law, substantive equality remains elusive.
Over one hundred years ago, the Irish jurist, Sir James Mathew, reportedly quipped that: ‘In England, justice is open to all, like the Ritz hotel.’ Behind this witticism lie serious issues regarding access to justice and equality of treatment before the law — similar issues, that in the context of environmental justice, currently reverberate throughout New South Wales.
It is a truism to say that possessing a legal right and being able to enforce it are two different things. In particular, legal rules concerning participation and rights of standing may theoretically apply across the board, yet their operation is often constrained by economic factors. For these reasons, institutions such as Legal Aid NSW and pro bono centres such as the Environmental Defenders Office (‘EDO’) perform essential community functions. The EDO, for example, has provided legal advice and representation to the community for almost 30 years. In doing so, it acts as a counterbalance to activities and sometimes oppressive tactics of those with commercial interests and deep pockets. Tacit recognition of the importance of the EDO is evident in the enthusiastic support that the Office has received from consecutive state governments — at least until now.
In discussions leading up to the publication recently of the discipline standards for law, there was naturally a focus on thinking skills. Indeed many law students and practitioners would be familiar with the mantra of ‘thinking like a lawyer’. Some claim that ‘thinking like a lawyer’ is a nebulous concept, others that it is a ‘self-aggrandising sham … to justify the existence of a … special lawyer class’.
Whether or not one accepts that there is a particular mode of thought or reasoning or analysis that belongs to lawyers in particular, there is growing evidence to show that the way we teach lawyers and the way that law is practised is in fact linked to psychological distress.
On 4 February 2010, I woke at 5:00am to fly to Sydney to hear the judgment in Roadshow Films Pty Ltd v iiNet Ltd, the first trial in the world to proceed to judgment involving a suit against an internet service provider (‘ISP’) claiming copyright infringement on its part due to alleged authorisation of the copyright infringement of its users.